Background: Unintentional injuries are an important cause of death in India. However, no reliable nationally representative estimates of unintentional injury deaths are available. Thus, we examined unintentional injury deaths in a nationally representative mortality survey.
Methods: Trained field staff interviewed a living relative of those who had died during 2001-03. The verbal autopsy reports were sent to two of the 130 trained physicians, who independently assigned an ICD-10 code to each death. Discrepancies were resolved through reconciliation and adjudication. Proportionate cause specific mortality was used to produce national unintentional injury mortality estimates based on United Nations population and death estimates.
Results: In 2005, unintentional injury caused 648,000 deaths (7% of all deaths; 58/100,000 population). Unintentional injury mortality rates were higher among males than females, and in rural versus urban areas. Road traffic injuries (185,000 deaths; 29% of all unintentional injury deaths), falls (160,000 deaths, 25%) and drowning (73,000 deaths, 11%) were the three leading causes of unintentional injury mortality, with fire-related injury causing 5% of these deaths. The highest unintentional mortality rates were in those aged 70 years or older (410/100,000).
Conclusions: These direct estimates of unintentional injury deaths in India (0.6 million) are lower than WHO indirect estimates (0.8 million), but double the estimates which rely on police reports (0.3 million). Importantly, they revise upward the mortality due to falls, particularly in the elderly, and revise downward mortality due to fires. Ongoing monitoring of injury mortality will enable development of evidence based injury prevention programs.